A few days ago I watched through Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word address at WordCamp US. In it he mentioned about the WordPress growth council. The idea is interesting and got me thinking about the growth of WordPress or open-source CMS in India.
While the increasing number of meetups and WordCamps are great, the average person from lower income groups has no idea of WordPress.
It is not to say, they have no idea about the internet. They do, but they are extensively using apps, services by Google or Whatsapp (owned by Facebook). Most technology that is helping them work, give them an online identity or a gateway to the internet are walled gardens. The open web is increasingly becoming something people do not know about and as a result care about.
This lack of awareness is acute in India’s poor and lower income groups.
I was starting to write down a rant on Twitter with the following tweets.
I did have a lot more to write about but remembered that I own a blog and came across some nice advice by Mike Little (co-founder of WordPress).
Since I live in India and I am active in the local WordPress communities as a volunteer, I have some views on our community in India. Note this is not a critique of the community, it is not a critique of WordPress either. I am not qualified to do that. I am writing this as way to write down what I comprehend about the future of WordPress in India for myself.
Some tough questions?
- Why will the local cab driver, rickshaw driver, small sandwich shop owner, self-employed carpenter, electrician ever use WordPress?
- How will WordPress serve people who are not looking to publish anything or blog about anything?
- How could several thousands of local newspapers and journals in local languages use WordPress to go online?
- Is the current WordPress community in India doing anything to be make WordPress relevant to lower income population of India that is discovering internet services?
Future of WordPress
This is a big change and it is a change that is going to be more inclusive and hence ultimately good for its sustained future.
But the other big reason for the success of WordPress so far is the community around it.
I love WordPress!
Who are we? Are we growing in depth? Do we really even matter as a community in India when it comes to technology?
Much of the community that meets at WordCamps and meetups, reside in an echo chamber. They take part in meetups, organise WordCamps and feel happy about themselves. Why do I get involved in open-source, in WordCamps, in meetups – the common and most popular answer is “I love WordPress!”
Love is a strong word but we must wait and listen to our answer to why we love WordPress.
I love WordPress – because I make money from it?
I love WordPress – because it’s easy?
I love WordPress – because it opens avenues to me?
I love WordPress – because I love Freedom.
The problems start not with loving something but why you love something.
Love involves hard work, pain, effort, patience, respect and a level of altruism. Love is a powerful emotion and it should stand for an higher ideal or a higher purpose.
The higher ideals of freedom, choice and inclusion. While freedom and choice are protected because of its open-source nature and the GPL licence, inclusion is often neglected or less thought about.
Call for inclusion and dialogue
We all have meetups, workshops and WordCamps where we discuss various WordPress related topics. Can we take some time out and have one or two outreach programs in our local communities?
Where we speak to people from lower income groups or school students from lower income groups. Can we explain to them the benefits of open-web?
Where we can talk to them and their unions and associations to negotiate and carry out dialogues with tech giants from a place of awareness rather than darkness. Can we try to atleast talk about such things in our community?
The WordPress community as a result will become more inclusive, more broader and those are good signs for the future.
Let me know in your comments what we could do as a community about inclusion, about trying to promote the open-web ideals to lower income groups, to people who do not earn their living from the internet.
Our favourite software WordPress might not benefit directly but the open-web might end up winning!
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